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21 posts categorized "Food for Thought"

March 1, 2017

Pollock – America's Other White Fish

Gray pollock2

By Piet E. Jones

“Monday fish hardly worth elevating to Friday.” That was how James Beard award winning British food writer, Jane Grigson, dismissed pollock in her 1973 tome, Fish Cookery.  “Tasteless” and “muddy” were some of the other words she used to describe the poor, lamented pollock.

But that was many years ago, tastes change and what was once out is now hot.  Diners today don’t want strong, fishy seafood.  What Grigson called “tasteless,” today we describe as “delicate.”  The “muddy” color that offended her?  Our eyes see a beautiful ivory fillet.  Don’t forget, in colonial America indentured servants in New England demanded a clause in their contracts not to be fed too much lobster - a burden many of us today would gladly welcome.

 

A Blank Slate

The delicate flavor is actually the perfect blank slate for the creative chef.  Nearly any sauce pairs easily.  Plus, the firm flesh and low moisture content lends itself perfectly for breading or batters - holding up well even in deep fryers.

Pollock also has a few more things going for it. These days savvy diners, especially Millenials, don’t just indulge, they look for enjoyable foods that also give a little extra.  They want to know if seafood is sustainable, wild caught, and even good for you. In this case, 400-500 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acids per three ounce serving.  This “good fat” is considered essential and experts believe it can help ward off age related diseases like Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes. And yes, to your diners’ delight, Alaskan Pollock is both wild caught and sustainable.

 

The Alaska Angle

More and more diners also want to know where their food was sourced from. The Portlandia skit where they make light of the farm-to-table movement and the journey Colin the Chicken made to their plate may have been funny, but there is more than a grain of truth to it.  The Alaskan fisheries, where American Pollock comes from,  are some of the best managed in the world.  Strict quotas and regulatory oversight ensure that the fishery will be productive for generations to come, providing good jobs.

There is even more to that Alaskan angle. Marketing research indicates that adding “Alaskan” or “Wild Caught Alaskan” can significantly increase sales over a menu item simply described as “Pollock.”  Diners are also willing to pay a premium for dishes labeled “Alaskan” over those that aren’t, a huge benefit in times of tight margins.

 

Budget Friendly

Also, Pollock won’t destroy your budget.  It is increasingly difficult to maintain quality and portion size without changing your price points - a real challenge in the face of stiff competition at all levels of dining in the restaurant industry.  Relatively inexpensive compared to similar wild caught white fishes, pollock can help you control your food costs while maintaining quality.

Pollock has come a long way.  Once out of favor, changing palates and increased awareness of environmental and health benefits point to it being the next hot fish.  Maybe it’s time for you to consider adding it to your menu.

October 31, 2016

How to Open on Thanksgiving Without Making Your Entire Staff Hate You

By: Piet E. Jones

Thanksgiving_foodcentricGreat, you’ve decided to open for Thanksgiving. Now the next question, how do you pull this off without sending staff morale into the basement? Competition for both front- and back-of-house staff is fierce, especially for experienced and competent employees. Sure, you may get through the holiday without anyone actually quitting, but a month or two down the line when the new locavore bistro around the corner opens or there’s a position at a downtown high-end hot spot, your staffers may remember not being able to spend a holiday with their family and be more open to making a move. Watching that sous chef you’ve spent the last year training and grooming or the bartender who created your hot cocktail program walk out the door represents a lost investment and can be disruptive to your future earnings.

Striking a balance for both the business and your staff is key. Some restaurants, especially those in hotels or resorts, are expected to be open. Others have a long history of holiday dining. Employees recognize this but, in terms of your staff, make sure days like this aren’t taken for granted. A few relatively simple steps can go a long way toward making them feel better about missing time with their families.

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June 13, 2016

Step Outside the Box and Inspire Summer Sales

EggsBy: Piet E. Jones

Summer is here. Warm days and long evenings. Extended weekends full of holiday cookouts, grilling with friends and unless you’re lucky enough to be a tourist destination, empty tables. What can be done to keep that revenue flowing during the off season?

You could start by thinking outside the box. The box being your restaurant. And outside being, well, outside. In today’s busy world, people love weekend cookouts and holiday barbecues, but many don’t have time to make a dish to bring. Add to that the increasing sophistication of people’s palates, along with a desire to show off to friends, and suddenly that quart of three-bean salad from the grocery store just doesn’t quite cut it anymore.

Why not take advantage of the season and offer your menu as an alternative for all these needs? Look to your side and appetizer menu, even your dessert list, and let your imagination run. Got garlic mashed potatoes as a side? Maybe you’re well known for your gruyere mac-n-cheese. You probably already make these items in bulk—why not offer them in portion sizes perfect for picnic tables? Some items might not even require reheating. Your green bean and bacon side with a mustard vinaigrette? It’s just as good served cold as it is hot.

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July 14, 2015

News You Can Use to Plan Your Next Move

Crepes_sizedWhen we see an important trend or two or three or four we just gotta weigh in, you know, before the trend is passé and everyone’s on to the next big thing. Last year, we were writing about food trucks and how they rolled into towns giving restaurateurs a venue to try out a new concept without major expense. Now we look at the next evolution in the process, along with some other noteworthy game changers.

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June 16, 2015

Fast Casual Foods of India: Who Will Wrap It Up in America?


Fast_Casual_IndianThe cuisine of India has always been somewhat of a tough sell to American consumers, who seem to either love it or hate it without much in-between. For those who love it, especially vegetarians, the combination of spices, often with a little heat from chilies, presents a bonanza of choices. For those on the other end of the spectrum, the extensive menus, unfamiliar spices and flavors, and yes, murky food colors, are too daunting to try. Yet slowly but surely, Indian foods are making mainstream inroads. Naan, for example, has become as ubiquitous as pita bread even at the big box groceries. And then there’s curry. Sure, everyone knows what it is. It’s something and something, with some sort of spices and sometimes sauce.  Or, it’s that powder on the spice shelf with a label that says—wait for it—curry.   

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January 19, 2015

Staying Up-to-Date with Consumers’ Conflicting Needs

Caviar deviled eggConsumer food demands are all over the map these days. A curious mixture of health-driven, convenience-driven, and taste-driven, diners want it all at a restaurant. They want to veer from something comforting, to something healthy, to something decadent—and back again.

No one can cater to everyone, but restaurateurs can check out these possibilities if they want to satisfy those wacky needs.

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December 30, 2014

What's On The Menu: 2015

Grasshoppers
Will we see you eating bugs in 2015?

This is the time of year when everyone looks into their crystal bowl for restaurant trends in 2015. Some of them are obvious—the increased use of technology-at-the-table for instance, so that customers can order, entertain themselves and pay their bills on a restaurant-supplied tablet—all without ever making eye contact.

Then there are those calorie counts that must be included on menus in restaurants with 20 or more outlets, movie popcorn, vending machine foods and alcoholic beverages. This one is interesting because it may—or may not—lead to consumers making more informed choices. Or it might scare them away altogether, like drinking that morning coffee without that morning pastry (sigh!). Restaurateurs are already offering smaller portion sizes (mini scones, two-bite desserts) and reconfigured menu items to make dishes lower in fat and calories.

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November 17, 2014

Everything Old is Nouvelle Cuisine

Small PlateTo be au courant these days, look no further than those restaurants that specialize in “small plates,” or “shared plates.”  If you want your own food, forget about it. At a recent visit to a hot new restaurant, we nearly took off someone’s arm wrestling for that last mouthful of a thumb-size crab cake.

The dishes at shared plates restaurants are meticulously prepared. Instead of spooning a sauce over the dish, it might be dolloped on the plate in a decorative swirl. The chef gets to exercise his or her creativity and the diner gets a one-bite beignet with slivers of mushroom artfully placed, or as a friend likes to call it, “tweezer food.”

But the idea of the small precious food perfectly plated is hardly a new one.

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July 31, 2014

To Tip Or Not To Tip? That Is The Question.

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It’s a given that those of us who have charm and personality (ahem), should have no trouble making fabulous tips as waiters or waitresses. Unless, of course, that four-top who sat for three hours was not amused by your charm and personality and left you a $2 tip. Or that four-top was amused by your charm and personality – and still left you a $2 tip.

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June 17, 2014

Fork and Spoon: Meet the 1200 Calorie Pasta Dish and the New Labeling Law

Cheesy_pasta

When we walked into one of our favorite chain restaurants for a family dinner recently, we were stunned into silence (and we can tell you, that is not an everyday occurrence). The restaurant, in compliance with an upcoming federal law, has added the requisite calorie count on every dish – ahead of the regulations.   

 

We were completely blindsided- but not for the reasons you might expect. We were looking forward to a nice meal – instead we ended up feeling guilty about calories, when we could have been solving global warming or at the very least, fighting over  who was going to pick up the check.    

 

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